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National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-4) Law Enforcement Survey – Family Abduction (LES-FA) Pilot Study Report

NCJ Number
David Finkelor; Brianna Ferreira; Kimberly J. Mitchell
Date Published
February 2022
47 pages

This pilot study, the Law Enforcement Survey - Family Abduction (LES-FA), assessed the potential for obtaining data directly from law enforcement agencies (LRAs) and investigators on the incidence and dynamics of family abductions (FAs).


At the time of this study, FA data were being obtained from a nationally representative household survey; however, declining participation rates and the increasing expense for the survey led to the creation of the current project. For this project, FA was defined the same as with the household survey. There were three stages in the data collection for the pilot study. Stage 1 tested an instrument and data collection instructions with a small number of LEAs to test following instructions in completing the survey. Stage 2 tested the survey procedures for the recruitment and response agencies to mail-out requests for participation in the data collection. Stage 3 tested the recruitment and performance investigators based on two data-collection options (online and phone interview) for providing information on specific cases. Based on analyses of the three stages, the project reached six conclusions: 1) given time and prodding, LEAs will participate, complete, and return mailed questionnaires about FA case numbers; 2) the time involved in the task is not burdensome for most agencies, but alternate options and strategies may be required for larger agencies; 3) adequate participation rates and case numbers can be collected to produce population estimates; 4) Given time. prodding and alternative questionnaire modes, investigators will provide details on cases; 5) the online questionnaire was a viable addition to the methodology; and 6) the questionnaire was deemed easy to follow and did not prove problematic or confusing to respondents. The project concluded that the online questionnaire should be retained as part of the methodology, because it reduces telephone interviewing costs and provides respondents with a convenient alternative into providing information.

Date Published: February 1, 2022